Corporate Tax Evasion Hurts Schools; Real Reform; Congressional Proposals Should Demand a Fair Share from Corporations

Article excerpt

Taxes dodged in corporate boardrooms hurt education in neighborhood classrooms.

Keep that in mind the next time you hear about so-called "corporate tax reform" that doesn't result in our nation's most profitable corporations chipping in to help resolve our budget crisis.

In Washington, as part of the deficit-reduction negotiations, lawmakers are debating whether to require big corporations to increase the amount they pay in taxes. Many are pushing instead for what they call "revenue neutral" corporate tax reform. We need to make sure that reform is "revenue positive" by demanding a fairer share of taxes from our largest firms to pay down debt and strengthen public investments like education.

Most Americans agree multinational corporations don't pull their weight when it comes to funding our common priorities. In recent years, very familiar and very profitable corporations like Boeing, General Electric, and Wells Fargo have used accounting sleight-of- hand to reduce their federal tax liability to zero.

Even among those corporations that owe taxes, loopholes can quickly chop the official rate of 35 percent down to an average effective rate of just 12 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Three things happen when corporations evade their financial responsibilities to society: middle-class families pay more, important services suffer, and deficits widen. As a member of the middle class, I don't relish higher taxes; as a citizen, I worry about growing debt.

But the most immediate effect I experience is as a school board member trying to patch holes in our budget that can be traced, in part, to paltry corporate-tax collections. Our school district is the second largest in the state, with some 25,000 students and an annual budget of more than $200 million. As with most school districts in Missouri, the bulk of our funding comes from local property taxes, but we look to the federal government for about 10 percent of our funding. And that money goes directly to help kids who are most at-risk in our district the poor and the disabled.

This federal aid allows us to hire teachers and aides and establish programs to assist low-income and disabled students to learn and thrive, part of a national commitment to universal quality education for all children. …